What are Stocks?

Wall St. Nerd


Updated on

January 13, 2023


Stocks are financial instruments that represent a company's ownership stake. You are referred to as a shareholder if you possess shares in a firm and partake in its profits. A stock market exchange, such as the NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange, is where public firms sell their Stocks. Stocks give you a piece of a company's ownership. They provide you access to a company's earnings depending on how well it performs in the future. The dividend payments a stock makes, as well as any capital gains or losses, constitute the stocks' return during a set holding term. Stocks are issued (sold) by corporations to raise capital to operate their operations.


Stocks are divided into two categories: common and preferred. Stocks are the foundation of practically every portfolio and are purchased and sold mostly on stock exchanges, but private trades are possible. They have historically outperformed most other assets over time. 

For example, if a firm has 1,000 outstanding shares and one person owns 100 of them, that person owns and has a claim to 10% of the company's assets and earnings.


A stock is a sort of investment that reflects a portion of a company's ownership. Investors who believe they will increase in value over time purchase stocks. An investment in stocks, when you buy a share of a firm, you are buying a small piece of that company. Stocks are also known as "equities," and they entitle the shareholder to a share of the corporation's assets and income according to how much stocks they possess. "Shares" are the units of stocks.

Shares are the foundation of many individual investors' portfolios and are bought and sold mostly on stock exchanges, but private trades are possible. Existing shareholders' ownership and rights are diminished as corporation issues new shares in exchange for cash to continue or grow the business. Companies can also buy back shares, allowing investors to repay their initial investment as well as any capital gains from later stock price increases.

Stocks and IPOs

An initial public offering (IPO) is a technique of raising funds for major corporations in which the company offers its shares to the public for the first time. The company's shares are traded on a stock exchange after the IPO. The following are some of the key reasons for launching an IPO: to raise funds through the sale of shares, to provide liquidity to firm founders and early investors, and to take advantage of a greater value.

For a new IPO, there is frequently more demand than supply. As a result, there is no certainty that all interested investors will be able to purchase shares in an IPO. Those interested in participating in an IPO through their brokerage firm may be able to do so, albeit access to an IPO may be limited to the firm's larger clients. Another alternative is to invest in an IPO-focused mutual fund or another investment instrument.

Different Types of Stocks

Stocks are divided into two categories: common shares and preferred shares.

Common Shares

Owners of common shares are entitled to vote at shareholder meetings and to dividends. This is the kind of stock that most people have in mind when they talk about stocks. In fact, this is how the vast majority of shares are issued. Over the long term, common shares outperform practically every other investment in terms of capital growth.

Because common shares carry the most risk, this increased return comes at a cost. If a firm declares bankruptcy and liquidates, common shareholders will not be compensated until creditors, bondholders, and preferred shareholders have been paid.

Preferred Shares

Preferred investors typically do not have voting rights, but they have preference over common shareholders if the company goes bankrupt and liquidates its assets. Preferred shares can also be callable, which means that the firm can buy shares from shareholders at any time for any reason (usually for a premium).

Some as being more akin to debt than equity view preferred shares. These types of shares can be thought of as falling in between bonds and common shares.

Other types

The following are some of the several types of stocks:

  • Earnings are expanding at a quicker rate than the market average in growth stocks. A growth stocks is likely to be a start-up technological company.
  • Dividends are paid on a regular basis by income stocks. A well-established utility firm is likely to be a reliable source of income.
  • Value stocks have a low price-to-earnings (PE) ratio, which means they are less expensive to purchase than companies with a higher PE ratio are. People buy value stocks in the hopes that the market will correct itself and the stocks' price will rise.
  • Blue-chip stocks are investments in large, well-known corporations with a proven track record of success. Generally, they pay dividends.

Why do companies issue Shares?

Companies issue shares to raise funds from investors who prefer to put their money into the stock market. Corporations issue shares to raise funds for expansion and growth. Corporations will issue shares in order to raise funds by selling a portion of their profits. A firm may issue shares to raise funds for a variety of reasons. The following are some of the most common reasons:

  • The creation of novel products
  • to buy new buildings or to buy equipment to expand inventory
  • To hire more people and minimize debt
  • to get ready for a merger or acquisition
  • to increase a company's value
  • to allow for more flexibility

Shareholder and Equity Ownership

Shareholders' equity (or corporate net worth) is a measure of how much a company's owners have put into it, either by investing money or by keeping earnings over time. Shareholders' equity is divided into three categories on the balance sheet: common shares, preferred shares, and retained earnings.

Shareholders' equity and owners' equity are the same things in the context of a corporation. However, because there are no shareholders in a sole proprietorship, the right phrase is the owner's equity. Briefly, shareholders' equity is a metric for determining a company's net worth. Stocks ownership allows you the ability to vote at shareholder meetings, receive dividends (the company's profits) when and if they are distributed, and sell your shares to someone else.

Why should you own Stocks?

Stocks can be an excellent addition to any financial portfolio. Investing in various firms' stocks can help you develop your savings, safeguard your money from inflation and taxes, and maximize your investment income. When it comes to investing in the stock market, it is crucial to understand that there are hazards.

Over the years, the stock market has generated great riches. The S&P 500, which includes 500 of the largest publicly traded corporations in the United States, has averaged an annual return of 8% to 12%. Only USD 10,000 invested in the stock market 50 years ago would have grown to more than USD 380,000 today if it had increased at that rate.

Benefits and risks

Stocks can be an excellent addition to any financial portfolio. Investing in various firms' stocks can help you develop your savings, safeguard your money from inflation and taxes, and maximize your investment income. Stocks provide the best long-term growth (capital appreciation) opportunities for investors. Investors who are willing to continue with shares for a long time say 15 years; have typically seen high, positive returns.

Capital gain is when you sell shares for more than you paid for them. This occurs when an individual's share price rises significantly, and it is one of the long-term goals of stock investing. Dividends are cash payments provided to shareholders as a percentage of the company's profit at the conclusion of each fiscal year. Shares that are publicly traded are, by definition, very liquid products that can be purchased and sold swiftly on an exchange platform. Trading on an exchange also allows you to sell a portion of your share parcels instead of the entire lot. 

For some investors, market volatility can be unsettling. A stock's price can be influenced by elements within the firm, such as a faulty product, or external events, such as political or market events, over which the company has no control. The hazards of stocks holdings can be mitigated in part by diversifying your portfolio. Investing in non-stock assets, such as bonds, is another approach to mitigate some of the risks associated with stocks ownership.

How to Buy Stocks?

Stocks are typically purchased and sold on stock markets like the NASDAQ or the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Following an initial public offering (IPO), a company's equity becomes available for investors to buy and sell on a stock exchange. You can buy and sell stocks using the following methods:

  • A direct stocks strategy
  • A dividend reinvestment plan allows you to reinvest your dividends.
  • A full-service or cheap broker
  • a mutual fund

Some businesses allow you to buy or sell their stocks without going via a broker. This saves you money on commissions, but you may have to pay other fees to the plan, such as if you sell your shares through a broker. Dividend reinvestment schemes allow you to reinvest dividend payments into the company to buy more shares you already hold.

Full-service or discount brokers charge customers a commission to buy and sell shares on their behalf. Stocks funds are another option for purchasing equities. A mutual fund invests in stocks primarily. A stocks fund may focus on a specific sort of stocks, such as blue chips, large-cap value stocks, or mid-cap growth stocks, depending on its investing aim and policies.

To read about these investment options, and other services that make it easy to invest in stocks, see my article about stock investing strategies.

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Hi, I'm Alexander Kelm.

Serial entrepreneur, value investor and angel investor. Founder of Wall St. Nerd. Join me here on wallstnerd.com to learn how to read financial statements, find healthy companies, and invest your money wisely.

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